Poetry The Ecstasy issue

Things Seen Right & Left Without Glasses

By Terrance Hayes

photo by Jakob Rosen

Sometimes I feel like a motherless town
full of fathers who get custody of their sons
in the divorce, a town of hotels and campers
and men and boys who speak as strangers 

but feel the blood they share.
I remember the policeman arrested the child
after hitting him so hard, his face caved
in the nightmare and the sound woke me.  

My cry can be heard if you lay an ear
to my Adam’s apple, named so as proof
it was Adam who tried to swallow
where Eve only tried to bite the fruit. 

Everything said and unsaid, issues from us
like a humming like honey clogging the pipes
with sweetness. Sometimes I feel like dancing.
We gonna dance the night away. 

Sometimes I feel like somebody’s watching me.
Sometimes I feel like I got to run away.
Sometimes I feel like the child whose disfigured
expression was placed in a fishbowl.

Why would anyone ever truly want to relax?
Where I’m from everybody fights everybody
to get to truly know them. I plan to change
my mind according to intuition’s Venn diagram 

of the people who know the truth overlapping
with people who don’t know the truth
overlapping with people who know the truth
but lie about it overlapping with people 

who don’t know the truth but think they do.
We’re in the colorful gray between up and down.
Have mercy, I hear you say. It may not be
right or wrong. It may not be true or false.  

Sometimes I feel like someone who parks
with the headlights facing the road.
Sometimes I feel like someone who parks
with headlights facing the house. 

Not so much the tongue as its negotiation
with the throat and teeth. Not so much a muscle
as a space for mediating the bite and swallow.
As if the spine is a hollowed bony pole with teeth  

around a throat attached to the gastrointestinal tract
attached to the anus. Sometimes I feel like Alice
proves nothing’s wrong with a rabbit hole.
There must be a place to process what is taken in  

and what is released. Throw your hands in the air
and wave like you’re changing a light bulb.
Remember the first time you stayed up past midnight
like someone who was almost a know-it-all? 


Terrance Hayes’s most recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, which won the 2019 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, and To Float in the Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight, which was the winner of the 2019 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. Hayes is a professor of English at New York University.